Helio Sequence: Love and Distance

Helio Sequence
Love and Distance
(Sub Pop)

I saw this band live two years ago when they opened for Echobrain at the Canopy Club, and they are one opening band worth remembering. Well, OK, I don’t remember any particular song, or even their music overall – but the way vocalist/guitarist Brandon Summers distorted his face and writhed onstage, and the way percussionist Benjamin Weikel’s head seemed about to spin off at a 90 degree angle to his neck on every downbeat – well, this two-member band had more intensity than a jungle of hyenas.

On their latest album Love and Distance, however, it’s the music that captures your attention. Listening to Summers’ husky vocals, you can also see the sweat pouring off his forehead – or maybe you see it in the digitized background noise that these artists engineer to drive with the coarseness and suave of a well-oiled Mustang. Even though Summers and Weikel self-engineered, self-produced, and self-mixed the album in garages, living rooms, and basements, their knowledge of technology has enabled them to maintain a high quality sound throughout. Although the album relies heavily on synth loops, strangled cacophony and other effects and distortions, it also blends in a psychedelic mood of the ‘60s in its swirling cycles, floating melodies, and trippy rhythms. The CD opens with “Harmonica Song,” which uses a harmonica and much more to establish the calmly cheerful atmosphere that holds through to the last song, “Looks Good (But You Looked Away),” a soothing blur that ends with wind chimes blowing on the back porch. The eight songs in between belong to the same state of mind, risking monotony for the sake of establishing an ambient, coherent mass of many layers.